factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“Universal credit only pays 50 per cent of housing costs for joint tenancies even after one tenant leaves”

The short answer:

That’s a myth ... housing costs can be covered in full if the other joint tenant leaves

The way that universal credit housing costs are apportioned between joint tenants depends on their relationship with each other -

  • if they are partners (or a child or young person either of them are responsible for) the full allowable rent liability is used in the housing costs calculation;
  • if the joint tenancy includes tenants who are not partners, the total amount of allowable rent liability is divided by the number of tenants and that amount is used in the calculation of housing costs for each tenant or tenant couple in the joint tenancy.

If a joint tenant or partner leaves, the DWP has a discretion to treat the remaining tenant or tenants as liable for the full rent if it considers it appropriate to do so. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that decision makers are not always aware of this discretion.

Tip: To help make sure the DWP exercises its discretion in your case it can help if you get a letter from your landlord confirming that your partner or a joint tenant has left and that you (and any other tenants) are now responsible for the entire rent liability. In addition, try adding notes to your journal explaining that you are liable for an increased proportion of the rent (100 per cent if you now live alone) and so should have your full housing costs paid.

NB - the DWP may suggest you contact your partner or the former joint tenant to get them to agree to take their name off the tenancy before it will agree to cover your full rent liability. However, this is not necessary and you should not be put under pressure to do this, particularly if your relationship with your ex-partner involved domestic violence or is otherwise difficult. Consider complaining if you feel you have been put under undue pressure.

Law and case law:

Section 11 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and regulation 25 and 26 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 include provision for the award of a housing costs element for renters.

Paragraphs 24 and 35 of schedule 4 to the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provide for how the housing costs element is calculated for joint private sector and social sector tenants respectively, including the discretion to alter general rules where reasonable to do so.

Official guidance:

ADM Chapter F3 (from paragraph F3197 for private renters and from F3263 for social rented sector tenants)

Joint tenancies (last updated March 2019) from the House of Commons library confirms that the DWP should use discretion to apportion rent liability in cases where a joint tenant has left.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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